Olaseinde Olusola

Building a Perfume Empire

In his over three-year journey in the perfume business, Olaseinde Olusola has evolved into an authority on luxury niche perfumes. His stores now proudly showcase premium brands from various corners of the world, marking a significant departure from the fame he once garnered in the aughts. He tells Vanessa Obioha about his plans to build a perfume empire 


n a recent Sunday afternoon, Olaseinde Olusola strolled into his Seinde Signature Salon de Parfum store at Lagos Oriental Hotel, exchanging pleasantries with his team. The conversation veered toward the successful flash sale, where customers seized the opportunity to acquire select luxury niche perfumes for a flat rate of N100,000.

This enticing offer served as the perfect giveaway to usher in the new year, coinciding with the company’s third ‘scentiversary’ where lucky winners will embark on a memorable trip to Milan, Italy, for an immersive perfume experience.

Surpassing expectations, the flash sale sold more than the initially advertised 200 luxury perfumes, and Olusola contemplated extending the sales. He finally gave the green light for an extended sales period.

In his over three-year journey in the perfume business, Olusola has evolved into an authority on luxury niche perfumes. His stores now proudly showcase premium brands from various corners of the world, marking a significant departure from the fame he once garnered in the aughts. Last April, he partnered with renowned nose and grandmaster scent creator Christian Provezano to launch the CP and Sospiro brand in the Nigerian market.

During the telecommunications boom, Olusola was a dominant player through his S&S Wireless telecommunications company. He was rolling in money, and even had a convoy that accompanied him anywhere he went. This portrayal stands in stark contrast to the casually walking man who entered earlier.  He was the Dangote of that era, commanding respect with nearly everyone at his beck and call.

Despite his wealth during that time, Olusola maintained a modest lifestyle, eschewing extravagance. For instance, he was not particularly fond of parties, choosing to attend only those hosted by close friends or family.

“I’m not one of those Yoruba boys who look for parties to attend every weekend. I see parties as a waste of time, a breeding ground for gossip,” he shared with me on this sunny Sunday afternoon in his exquisitely scented office. A lingering incense fragrance filled the air as cases of expensive wines and perfumes majestically perched on the tiled floor. They are testaments to his partnerships with luxury brands, serving as gift cases for various occasions.

He is not a fan of native outfits either, even though he was wearing one. “I wore this because a friend dragged me to attend an event later today.”

His regular attire is just smart casual. No jeans, no suits.

Olusola reached the nadir of his life when a substantial business deal went awry. Despite heavy investments in a franchise from a telecommunications company, the venture failed to materialise. On top of that, he grappled with the fallout from the defunct Spring Bank.

According to him, he had taken an overdraft facility of N150 million from the bank but later uncovered overcharges and arbitrary interest rate increases, amounting to a staggering N47.1 million after a thorough investigation by his consultants.

What ensued was a legal battle between him and the bank such that the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) intervened.

And just like that, his once luxurious life became a distant mirage. For several years he could not do anything. People said many negative things about him. Some said he stole money, and even at parties, he was discussed openly as if he was invisible. In 2011, Olusola emerged victorious in the legal case, dispelling the rumours.

During this challenging period, Olusola found a renewed relationship with Almighty God.

“I gained a lot during that experience. I was able to see life in the proper perspective. And a lot of things we see do not exist.”

He revealed that he was on the verge of becoming a pastor before his wealth dwindled. Back then, he dutifully contributed lofty offerings and tithes, believing it was the path to a righteous life in the kingdom of heaven.

“I thought that as much as you give is as much as God answers you.”

But when he encountered his problem, he could not comprehend why he would face such a difficult situation.

“Even the GO I was giving money every month simply wrote a letter saying that we are praying for you, and since that time, nobody ever asked about me.”

As he studied the word of God, Olusola realized many profound truths and revelations. His conclusion? Many sermons preached in churches today are misleading. Now, he is at a place of peace and joy with his Maker. This, he believes, is the true meaning of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

“Only one gospel singer talked about this and that’s Ron Kenoly in his song ‘Righteousness, Peace and Joy.’”

Olusola has been entrepreneurial since his days as a student at Yaba College of Technology, where he studied Graphics Arts. Even then, he showcased his enterprising spirit, crafting logos for brands and influential personalities, including billionaire Folorunsho Alakija. In his second year, he purchased his first car, and by graduation, he had established both a laundry company and a graphics and design firm.

“I can’t sit in an environment and be idle. I find solutions to problems.”

His entrepreneurial spirit proved invaluable during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.  Since 1982, Olusola has been collecting perfumes, a pastime he once thought was a fetish.

“Initially, I just bought perfume for fun. It makes me happy. I like it when people comment on my perfume.”

Like many Nigerians who entertained themselves via social media to kill the ennui during that period, Olusola scrolled through Instagram. To his surprise, he stumbled upon pages dedicated to perfumes, with enthusiasts referring to themselves as frag-heads. This revelation dispelled his notion that he was an olfactory alien, realising that his love for perfumes was shared and understood by a community.

Inspired by these pages, he began displaying his collection, confident that he had more. At the time, he had over 1000 bottles of perfumes. The response was overwhelming, with people reaching out to him eager to witness his impressive collection.

As excited as he was about this, a little problem lurked in the corner. All his perfumes were stored  in a cabinet in his bedroom and there was no way his wife would allow a stranger into their private chamber.

When the first fraghead visited, he undertook the herculean task of navigating the stairs to show off his collection. Eventually, his wife relented, allowing the fraghead into their bedroom to witness the extensive array of perfumes.

“We spent the whole day in my bedroom,” he said. As the demand to see his collection increased, Olusola built a cabinet and relocated most of his perfumes to another section of the house.

Sundays evolved into gatherings of fragheads at his home. While contemplating how to accommodate the increasing crowd, he conceived the idea to establish a perfume museum at the Lagos Oriental Hotel. The museum proudly showcased a myriad of niche luxury perfumes, including the Quelques Fleurs perfume worn by the late Princess Diana on her wedding day.

The shelves of the museum no longer showcase the array of fragrances as people began purchasing them. Generous in sharing his passion, he gave away bottles of perfumes, such as the memorable gesture of distributing 58 bottles on his 58th birthday. This year was no different as he marked his 62nd birthday. Over N100 million worth of perfumes will be given away to lucky customers for 365 days, starting from May 8, 2024 to May 8, 2025.

His platform also attracted other niche brands seeking entry into the Nigerian market. Now, he proudly oversees retail stores in Lagos, Abuja, and Warri.

“My passion for perfume collection has translated into business. I no longer have a collection.”

For Olusola, perfumes are akin to artworks, each telling a unique story. For instance, he talked about Eshu, a fragrance crafted by Thai perfumer Prin Lomros.

“Eshu in Yoruba language means the devil. We all know the characteristics of the devil: crafty, deceitful and all sorts. Now someone actually created a perfume that behaves that way.  It sorts of exudes such characteristics.”

He gave another example of perfumes made from semen which according to the creator was an homage to the creation of human life.

“The niche perfumes go a whole lot of length to create a story. You can see perfumers creating fragrances from different parts of the world like the Romanian who created the perfume Osun after the Osun god known for fertility. He has never been to Nigeria before but he read about it and built different characteristics to reflect that.”

Olusola further explained the distinction between designer perfumes and niche perfumes, drawing a parallel to an original painting versus a reproduction of that painting.

“Designer perfumes are mass produced while niche is for a select few and much attention is paid to the materials used compared to designer’s.”

Initially, like many Nigerians, Olusola believed the quality of a perfume was solely based on its scent. However, over the years, he gained a deeper understanding that it extends beyond just the smell. His expertise in niche perfumes even led to an invitation to Milan, the city known for its “noses,” to speak on the subject. Despite his knowledge, the lack of understanding of the perfume industry posed challenges for Olusola, making it difficult to secure loans from banks.

His future plans include having more retail stores and three perfume experience studios across the country.

“It’s going to be a lounge-like perfume studio where people can have a unique olfactory experience as well as relax and have good conversations.”

The ultimate goal is to build a perfume empire. “We want to build our stores in such a way that it is the most comprehensive (he didn’t want to use this word) perfume store you have ever been to in the world. The structure we have in place now is in such a way that we do not sell beyond what is sold abroad.”

He is lucky to have his daughter integrated into the business from a younger age. Now his son is hoping to do the same but he must first get a green light from the human resources department. Olusola is meticulous about ensuring things are done correctly, as evidenced by proudly displaying his son’s employment letter, awaiting his golden signature.

Related Articles